When ISIS took over the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in early June 2014, a local resident determined to begin a weblog to tell people of what was certainly going on underneath the terrorist regime. The self-described “non-journalist” released Mosul Eye, where they simply cited ISIS’s selections, movements, and planned moves around Mosul—once in a while getting their records by means of simply chatting to militants on the street. Articles ranged from each day reports at the state of affairs inside the city for updates on counter-army operations and specified accounts of ISIS’s strategy.
The internet site persisted to put up at some point of ISIS’s 3-yr occupation of Mosul. Some of its posts are rumored to have helped the Iraqi army discover a few of the institution’s headquarters. But because the internet site’s recognition grew, so did the quantity of dying threats ISIS sent its publisher—typically via e-mail and comment on weblog posts. It escalated to the point in which the writer felt threatened enough to flee Iraq rapidly earlier than the city became liberated in July 2017.
VICE Arabia spoke to the writer of Mosul Eye, at the condition of anonymity, to find out why they began the weblog, what it was want to be targeted via ISIS, and what’s next.
VICE: What prompted you to start the Mosul Eye?
Mosul Eye: On the day ISIS occupied Mosul, the whole thing appeared so dark and bleak. By then, I was already the use of my personal Facebook web page to put up information and statistics, so I decided to take it a step in addition through launching the weblog to try to document the entirety that was going on within the city. Soon when I started running a blog, dozens of human beings have been seeking to get in contact with me, however, I never replied out of worry that they have been ISIS combatants seeking to tune me down.
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Where did you find the braveness to run a weblog like this?
To be sincere, I by no means thought of myself as the kind of man or woman courageous sufficient to do something like this. When I began, ISIS became spreading so much false propaganda approximately how the humans of the city had welcomed them and approximately how below their control, all and sundry became living in peace and prosperity. All I wanted to do was assist human beings in the metropolis by using giving them the reality. The more centered on my mission I changed into, the easier it changed into to do it.
Where did you get your statistics from?
I might surely walk around outside and take note of how ISIS opponents were treating humans—although I by no means took so much as a pen or a phone to report what I noticed. I could memorize the whole lot that I saw, then write it up after I got home.
So did you speak to any ISIS combatants personally?
Sure. Sometimes I’d speak to them once I saw them in the market or at other public locations. I normally felt at ease sufficient to get into discussions with them approximately religion and politics due to the fact I have a sturdy knowledge in their ideology. Although, once, the communication was given a piece heated after they requested me whether or not I had pledged allegiance to their chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. If I had stated sure, they may have asked me to do something to show my allegiance, however, had I stated no, they might’ve killed me. Luckily, I managed to prevent the question by converting the difficulty.
What’s the nearest you’ve got come to getting caught?
One day, after speaking to a few ISIS combatants, I stupidly rushed home and blogged about a selected story they had shared with me. A few days later, I saw the ones guys again, and they requested me to explain how those statistics had ended up on the web page. I completely denied even understanding what the internet site was, and whatever approximately the individual jogging it. They then informed me all of the methods they have been seeking to search out the fellow who owns the website. It changed into very scary.
What have been they doing to track you down? ISIS had to get right of entry to the personal statistics of internet customers in Mosul, proper?
Yes—and, again, I became very lucky. ISIS did force net providers at hand over the private facts of all their customers in the city so they could monitor all and sundry’s hobby. But I had a chum who clearly owned an internet provider. I paid him to double my net connection so he would not pass on my information.
How did all this affect you in my opinion?
Obviously, I became scared that ISIS might discover and kill me, however, I turned into extra scared approximately the terrible things they could do to my circle of relatives. They did not even recognize that I became running the weblog. Every time someone knocked on our door, I feared it became ISIS. I might usually quietly prepare myself for the worst.
Do you recognize if you ever without delay or circuitously helped the security forces?
I would get messages from human beings announcing that my posts were assisting the Iraqi navy target ISIS combatants and their headquarters. Of route, I became satisfied to hear that the facts I furnished became being used to help the human beings of Mosul, however, I truly never set out to do anything extra than just report what I saw—I’m neither a journalist nor an intelligence officer.
What’s the most sizeable put up you posted that you assume contributed inside the fight against ISIS?
I become one of the first human beings to put in writing about the structure of their enterprise and the hierarchies they mounted within the organization. That exposed their machine and weakened them.
You finally needed to get away Iraq. Are you lower back now?
I would instead now not say in which I am now, however, yes, I did determine to leave after receiving an instantaneous danger from ISIS just earlier than Mosul changed into liberated. I controlled to get away via Syria with the help of Turkmen smugglers, after paying them $1,000.
What are your future plans for the blog?
Personally, I would really like it to remain energetic, however maybe shift closer to documenting Mosul’s cultural revival and the way younger humans within the metropolis are contributing to it. Or I may just forestall at some point and get back to my regular life.